Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Sunday, 18 october 2009 | Daily Telegraph


A Public Reply to The Daily Telegraph (II)

The theory of Columbus’s Catalan origin that you refer to in your article of October 14, 2009 (“Christopher Columbus writings prove he was Spanish, claims study”) is not new. It was first proposed many years ago and scholars from different countries have been regularly adding new elements that make it ever more plausible.

But it is truly inaccurate to say that a Catalan Columbus would have been “Spanish”, just as it would be inaccurate to say that America was discovered and colonized by “Spain”. It should be remembered that at the end of the fifteenth century there was no such thing as “Spain”. Ferdinand and Isabella, who happened to be husband and wife, ruled over their two legally distinct kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. After Columbus’s successful voyage, Isabella jumped to claim the newly discovered territories not for a then non-existent “Spain” but for her own kingdom of Castile, on the grounds that she had personally endorsed the expedition – ignoring, among other things, that the venture had been financed by an Aragonese subject, Lluis de Santangel. As a result, in the words of British historian J.H. Elliott, “the exploitation of American wealth would in practice remain the exclusive prerogative of Castile”. And further: “One way of furthering Spanish unity was to allow the natives of the peninsula equal participation in the benefits of empire. This way was rejected”.

The fact that Ferdinand’s subjects were effectively banned from the American enterprise may help explain the deafening silence heard from the Spanish side every time that new scholarship appears in support of the “Catalan theory”. Unlike the Italians, who never miss a chance to promote the Genoese theory as a source of national pride, academic circles as well as the official establishment in Spain have traditionally chosen to ignore or play down a growing body of evidence that could allow them to claim as their own a major historical figure. Or maybe not: if Columbus was indeed a Catalan, and not a Castilian, they wouldn’t think of him as one of their own, not really. And Isabella’s dishonesty when she cheated the Aragonese out of their right to do business in America will appear as even more egregious if Spaniards are finally forced to admit that the discovery was made by a Catalan.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made it their job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Our goal is to ensure that the world's public opinion gets a fair picture of the country's reality today and in history.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia